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Health care laundry to hire 150 in Columbia, Miss.

COLUMBIA, Miss. (AP) -- Crown Health Care Laundry Services will open a laundry in south Mississippi, with plans to hire 150 workers.

The company, based in Pensacola, Fla., announced its plans Tuesday at a ceremony attended by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant.

"I know our dedicated workforce will work hard to ensure the company's success here in Marion County," Bryant said in a statement.

Crown says it will invest $6 million, leasing a vacant 146,000-square-foot building owned by Marion County, Miss. The structure formerly housed a wiring harness maker and then a garment factory, but both closed.

Mississippi Development Authority is providing $2.1 million in federal community development funds and $150,000 in state funds for building modifications. The state is also providing $145,000 in infrastructure improvements. Crown hopes to open by the end of the year.

Marion County is giving money to help pay for building renovations, and the city of Columbia will create a special heavy-user water rate that the laundry will qualify for, said Mayor Reed Houston.

"They are a very stable company," Houston said. "They're not someone who comes in for a few years and then leaves."

Calvin Newsom, president of the Marion County Board of Supervisors, said the company is expected to pay employees from $13 to $14 an hour.

"We need the jobs," he said, citing the county's 11.2 percent unemployment rate in February.

Crown currently operates laundries in Pensacola; Selma, Ala.; Columbia, S.C.; and Quitman, Ga. It already serves customers in Mississippi, including Hattiesburg's Forrest General Hospital and Columbia's Marion General Hospital, Houston said. He said the company looked at sites in Mississippi and Louisiana to handle its business in those states. The privately-held company rents linens as well as launders those belonging to others.

"Today marks another strategic milestone in the continued growth and expansion of Crown Health Care Laundry Services in the Southeast," company President Don Haferkamp said in a statement.